THE MYSTERY OF THOMAS COLEMAN (1738-1810)
On the day Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay purchased 200 acres of Northumberland County land in 1659, he created a mystery that would not be solved for over 340 years. But his acquisition of those acres at Cherry Point Neck would provide the most telling clue as to the origins of the Thomas Coleman who married Elizabeth \(Betty\) Connelly, and link Thomas with the Mobjack Bay Colemans.
No evidence has been found to indicate the disposition of those 200 acres during Robert Colemanís lifetime, nor has evidence been found to indicate Thomas Coleman himself ever purchased Northumberland County land. Yet the births of Thomasí children were recorded in Richmond County where he lived and in St. Stephenís Parish of Northumberland County, VA. This circumstance is a strong clue proving Thomasí dual ownership of land in both counties. Two additional clues were found to prove Thomas Coleman (1738-1810) owned Northumberland County land: a tax list and a claim for goods or services he provided the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.
Thomas Coleman made a claim in Richmond Co.nty Court on 2 Apr 1782 for 500 lbs. of beef furnished the army (Virginia Publick Claims, Richmond Co., p. 1, Janice L. Abercrombie & Richard Slatten, 1991). At the April 1782 court in Northumberland Co.nty, Thomas Coleman appeared and made a similar claim for a service or supplies he provided the army. His claim was settled by 14 May 1782 and Thomas received 12s-6 (Virginia Publick Claims, Northumberland Co., p. 14, Abercrombie & Slatten, 1991). These two court appearances are proof of his dual county land ownership.
The name of Thomas Coleman, son of Thomas and Betty appears on the 1788 Personal Property Tax List in Northumberland County. Thomasí name was listed on 16 Apr 1788 in the first column headed "Persons Names Chargeable With the Tax". In the second column, headed "Male Tithables Above 21" appears the name of a Mr. Robinson, not the name of Thomas. He was just shy of his 18th birthday, living in Northumberland County and overseeing the land owned by his father. Thomas Jr. paid the tithe on himself, Robinson and two black males above the age of 16. Robinsonís first name is illegible on the tax list, but 50 years previously, a James Robinson was apprenticed to Thomasí grandfather, Richard. No relationship between the Robinson men has been established.
It is important to point out here that descendants of John Coleman (ca. 1615-1663) were also living in Northumberland County./a>, while descendants of Richard Coleman (1620-1679) were living in Lancaster and Richmond counties. This circumstance certainly contributed to the confusion of which line, exactly, did Thomas Coleman (1738-1810) belong. The fact is, Richard Coleman (1620-1679) never owned land in Northumberland County. The line of Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay was involved in land ownership in Gloucester, Northumberland, Lancaster, Richmond and many other Virginia counties.
Thomas and Betty Coleman purchased Richmond County land in 1768, 1771 and 1773. No records have been found to indicate they also purchased land in any other Virginia counties. Thomas would have inherited the Northumberland County land purchased by his 2nd great-grandfather, Robert Coleman, and also inherited the Lancaster County holdings of his father, Richard Coleman. These few, but solid, clues establish a direct link between Thomas and the immigrant Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay, and gives their descendants a reasonable basis on which to focus their research.
An amazing circumstance regarding genealogical research occurs after studying the same information over and over again without understanding what else might be contained within that information. Suddenly, even years later, a fact will leap from the pages to smack a researcher in the forehead. For over three hundred years, the list of children of (1) Thomas Coleman and his wife Rebecca remained the same. Their baptism dates were recorded in the Gloucester County Abingdon Parish Register, firmly established in Coleman family history. But a closer look at that list of children revealed a startling discovery, one that had a direct impact on the origins of Thomas Coleman (1738-1810) of Richmond and Northumberland counties.
The original Abingdon Parish Register was destroyed in 1676 during Baconís Rebellion. The recording of births and baptisms did not resume until 1679. The first recorded baptism of a child born to Thomas and Rebecca Coleman occurred with the birth of daughter Ann in 1680. However, Thomas and Rebecca may have had older children whose births had been recorded in the original destroyed register prior to 1676, or occurred between 1677 and 1678 when no register was kept.
Thomas himself was born before 1654, known from having been named a Godson of Thomas Ray in Rayís will dated 25 Aug 1654. Thomas Ray bequeathed his underage son, also named Thomas, his land at New Poquoson in York Co.nty, and his land at Mobjack Bay in Gloucester County. His Godson, Thomas Coleman, received a cow calf (VA Colonial Abstracts, York Co. 1648-1657, p. 128, will proved 24 Jun 1655).
In all probability, the surname of (1)Thomas Colemanís wife was Claiborne, although this supposition cannot be proved with hard evidence. One of the old and traditional, but incorrect, Coleman "facts" claimed a Rebecca Claiborne married Richard Coleman in York County, VA in 1654. No evidence has been found to support this "fact", particularly when that same writer claimed Richard was a son of Henry Coleman. \(Note: No evidence exists that Henry Coleman and his wife Katherine had any children. Katherineís name did not appear on a headright list until a decade after Henry was established in the colony.) The two Richard Colemans of that time period were not married to women named Rebecca. The wife of Richard Coleman of Westmoreland County was Elizabeth (surname unknown) and the wife of Richard Coleman of Lancaster County was Margaret Mascall. The year 1654 was more likely the year of Rebecca Claiborneís birth, not the year of her marriage. The fact that the Coleman and Claiborne names were mentioned together, particularly a Rebecca Claiborne, lends credence to the theory that the surname of (1)Thomas Colemanís wife was Claiborne. Another clue is that, among the descendants of Thomas and Rebecca, at least one was named Claiborne Coleman.
Rebecca may have been a daughter of Richard Claiborne, although evidence proving their relationship is unlikely to be found. Daughters were often given their inheritance at the time of their marriage, usually in coin. For that reason, daughters were left out of their fatherís will, resulting in their names disappearing from official records.
If Richard Claiborne had a daughter Rebecca who married (1)Thomas Coleman, it is reasonable to theorize that Thomas and Rebecca named a son Richard Coleman for his maternal grandfather. The frequent use of Richard in the Coleman line, going back generations in England, makes it even more conceivable that Thomas and Rebecca would have named their first sonRichard Coleman.
The possibility that Thomas and Rebecca had at least one older child, a son named Richard, was exciting in terms of genealogical research. Their son would have been the first grandchild of Robert and Elizabeth \(Grizzell\) Coleman. His birth would have occurred between 1674-1678.
An educated guess based on Virginia law must be considered when determining what happened to the 200 acres of land at Cherry Point Neck purchased by Robert Coleman in 1659. As the oldest son of Robert, (1)Thomas Coleman would have been the heir-at-law and inherited the bulk of his fatherís estate, with the exception of any part of Robertís estate given by deed of gift before his death. Thomas, in turn, would have devised his own estate to his oldest son, with the same exception. Robert Coleman of Mobjack Bay may even have made an outright gift of the 200 acres of Northumberland County land to his grandson Richard. Two hundred acres of land would have been a substantial inheritance, indicating the pride and affection Robert Coleman felt for his first grandson.
The law of inheritance was not popular among the English immigrants; that particular law was one of the reasons so many people had willingly left England. Once in the new country, they hoped to find opportunities denied them by restrictive British laws. The desire for land, for themselves and for their children, prompted many colonists to circumvent what they considered unfair inheritance laws. Many children were given an inheritance prior to their fatherís death, either in coin or land. The consequence of such acts resulted in wills not being reliable for establishing all the children in a family.
The most likely scenario involving Richard Coleman born between 1674-1678 is that he inherited the Northumberland County land at Cherry Point Neck from his grandfather Robert Coleman. Richard would have been able to take possession of the land at the age of 16, explaining the lack of Gloucester County records containing his name. Richard became a planter and eventually married. The number of children he and his wife had is unknown, other than a son named Richard. This son Richard was born about 1710 and became the father of Thomas Coleman (1738-1810).
The younger Richard apparently chose not to be a planter, and moved instead to the more populated Lancaster County where he became a tailor. But the Northumberland County land eventually reverted to Richard Coleman after the death of his father, and remained in the family for at least two more generations. After his fatherís death, an overseer would have worked the land on behalf of the Coleman family.
The Colemans living in Gloucester, Northumberland, Lancaster and Richmond counties would have been related, and certainly known many of the same people. Hard work was necessary for survival, but socializing was also an important element in the lifestyles of our early ancestors. The waterways made traveling a viable option for visiting relatives, meeting new people, and providing relief from the monotonous isolation of living in sparsely populated areas. At one time, when the colony was still young, the four counties of Gloucester, Northumberland, Lancaster and Richmond bordered each other. With an abundance of social and other inter-relationships among the Northern Neck families, the difficulty of sorting them all out is not surprising.
Richard Coleman was born about 1710 in Northumberland County and died about 1743 in Lancaster County. His wife Charity recorded his estate inventory on 11 Nov 1743 (Lancaster Co. VA Abstracts of Wills, Ida Lee\). Virginia law required a waiting period of nine months before an estate could be settled and disbursed. Richard would have died in late 1742 or early 1743.
His wife, Charity Jenkins, was born about 1720 and died in 1794. The surname of Charity Coleman has not been proven with hard evidence, but she was called "Charity Jenkins" in an old family record made by Coleman Duncan. He was a son of Henry Duncan \(Charityís third husband) and Rebecca Read who was a granddaughter of Andrew Read and Elizabeth Coleman. Elizabethís father was Richard Coleman of Westmoreland County who died in that county in 1678. Despite an extensive analysis, no relationship has been established between the Westmoreland and Mobjack Bay Colemans. Rebecca Read Duncan died 30 Oct 1760 and her husband Henry married Charity six years later in Richmond County.
Richard and Charity \(Jenkins\) Coleman had two children, Thomas Coleman born about 1738, and Hannah Coleman whose birth year is unknown.
Two court records provide insight into the lives of Richard and Charity Coleman. Eight-year old Mary Mason, orphan of John Mason, with the consent of her mother was bound to Richard Coleman in Lancaster County Court on the 12th of May 1738 "till she attains the age of eighteen". Taking a bound child into the family would have provided Charity with household and childcare assistance. Richard, presumably with the aid of Charity, was required to teach Mary to read, sew, knit and spin. Mary was also entitled by law to "sufficient and cleanly diet, lodging and apparel".
On the same date, James Robinson, orphan of John Robinson was also bound to Richard Coleman. Jamesí age was not recorded, but he was required to serve until he reached the age of twenty-one years. Richard was to teach James to read and write, and the "Trade of a Taylor". It is reasonable to assume Richard Coleman himself was a tailor, or at least possessed the skills to teach James Robinson the trade. As with Mary Mason, James was entitled to sufficient and cleanly diet, lodging and apparel. At the end of their servitude, Mary and James were to receive payment as allowed by law.
In most cases where children were bound out, the court order stated that if the Master died during the period of indenture, the bound child was to be released from the indenture of servitude. No such wording appeared in either court order regarding Richard Coleman. He died five years later, and no record has been found to indicate what happened to either child. Mary and James may have been retained in the household by Charity, who had two small children by then.
Charity Jenkins Coleman married her second husband, John Mitchell, on 3 Aug 1744 (The Marriage License Book of Lancaster Co. VA, 1701-1848, Stratton Nottingham\). John Mitchellís will was proved 20 Apr 1759 \(Lancaster Co. WB16, p. 16). Two of the witnesses to his will were his stepchildren, Thomas Coleman and Hannah Coleman. With John, Charity had two sons, Richard Mitchell (named in her will) and James Mitchell (named in a deed).
On 5 Nov 1750, a sale was recorded involving 70 acres of land by John Mitchell and Charity, his wife, planters, of White Chapel Parish, Lancaster County, to William Glascock of North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, for L20. The land was in North Farnham Parish, Richmond CountyÖ..Robert Mitchellís lineÖ..James Wilsonís landÖ..Anthony Sydnorís lineÖ..John Roseís land. Wit: Nathaniel Mason, William Thomas, Gabrl. Smither (Richmond Co. VA DB11, p. 24).
Charity was a widow in 1763, still living in Lancaster County, when she purchased land in Richmond County, VA. On 4 Jul 1763, "Patience Jenkins, John Jenkins and Mary his wife, of Richmond County, to Charity Mitchell of Lancaster County, 189 acres, land in Lunenburg Parish, Richmond County, VA, upo..the main branch of Rappahannock Creek, the land of William Pierce, Thomas Lyne, John Turbeville, John Gordon, Zachariah White, and the land sold by the said John Jenkins to William ConnellyÖ..the said parcel of land by the Last Will and Testament of Mansfield Jenkins given unto the said Patience, his wife, during her life and after her decease, unto his son, the said John Jenkins". Wit: first name illegible, second name was a Jenkins, and the third was William Connelly (Richmond Co. VA DB12, pp. 476-477).
There is a strong possibility that Charity was a daughter of Mansfield and Patience Jenkins. The names "Patience" and "Charity" were both Virtues. John Jenkins would have been Charityís brother. If Charity was indeed the daughter of Mansfield and Patience Jenkins, she was likely born and raised in Richmond County. After her marriage to Richard Coleman, Charity became a resident of Lancaster County.
On the same day, 4 Jul 1763, John Jenkins and Mary his wife, of Richmond County, to William Connelly of Lancaster County, 160 acres, consideration L100, land in Richmond County, VA bounded by the land of John Gorden, Charity Mitchell, Thomas Lyne. Wit: John Welch, William Jenkins, Charity Mitchell" (Richmond Co. VA DB12, pp. 477-478).
Charity Jenkins Coleman Mitchell married her third husband, Henry Duncan, on 29 Oct 1766 (Marriages of Richmond Co. VA, George H.S. King\). Henryís will was written 21 Jan 1771 and proved 2 Mar 1772 (Richmond Co. VA Wills, Robert K. Headley, Jr.\). There was no issue from this marriage.
By 3 Aug 1767, a year after Charity married Henry Duncan in Rich.ond County, they were living in Westmoreland County. "Deed of Gift: Henry Duncan and Charity his wife, of Cople Parish, Westmoreland County to James Mitchell, son of the said Charity, 189 acres, immediately after the death of the said Henry Duncan and the death of Charity, my said wifeÖ.all that parcel of land lying in the Parish of Lunenburg, County of RichmondÖ.on the main branch of Rappahannock Creek, the lands of William Pierce, Thomas Lyne, John Turberville (sic), John Gordon, Zachariah White, and the land of William Conolly (sic), which said land the said Charity in the time of her widowhood, and then by the name of Charity Mitchell, purchased of John Jenkins and Patience Jenkins, 4 Jul 1763, remaining now among the records of Richmond County." Wit: Samuel Stowers, William Connolly (sic), Richard Mitchell (Richmond Co. VA DB12, pp. 783-784). This deed of gift would explain why James Mitchell was not named in the 1793 will of his mother Charity. At the time of Henry Duncanís death, he and Charity were once again living in Richmond County, VA.
Charityís will was dated 24 Jan 1793 and proved 5 Jan 1795 (Richmond Co. VA WB9, pp. 19-20). To her grandson, John Mitchell, she left her plantation lands and tenements where she lived. If he died without heirs, the land was to be sold at public auction and the proceeds divided equally among her three children: Thomas Coleman, Richard Mitchell./a> and Hannah Luttrell. To her granddaughter, Sarah Walker, Charity bequeathed L3 current money, with her son Thomas to "keep in his hands and purchase such goods or necessaries as he shall think most convenient for her". Granddaughter Sarah Coleman received one feather bed and furniture. Granddaughter Frances Kirk received "one shilling sterling and no more". The remainder of Charityís estate was to be divided equally among her three children previously mentioned. Executors were her sons, Thomas Coleman and Richard Mitchell. Witnesses were George Conolley (sic) George Walker and Betty Conolley (sic).
Thomas Coleman, the only son of Richard and Charity Coleman, was born about 1738 in Lancaster County, VA. Some private family trees and family lines posted on the Internet give a definite birth date for Thomas in the year 1737, but no one knows when or where the date originated. No evidence of Thomas Colemanís birth date has ever been found in Virginia records, nor a burial place for him. He wrote his will on 29 Mar 1810 and the document was proved in court on 7 May 1810 (Richmond Co. VA WB9, p. 369).
With his first wife, Elizabeth \(Betty\) Connelly, Thomas had: Lucy, Richard, Elizabeth \(Betsy\), Thomas, Robert, Sarah, James and Mary \(Molly\). The births of their children were recorded in both Northumberland and Richmond counties. When Thomas and his family were in residence in Northumberland County./a>, they would have attended St. Stephenís Episcopal Church. Elaine Favre of Baton Rouge, LA shared pictures she took while visiting Northumberland County. Among the pictures was a view of the relatively small St. Stephenís Episcopal Church where the Thomas Coleman family worshipped. With its tall, stately steeple highlighted by a deep blue sky, sunlight glinted blindingly off the whiteness of the wooden structure. The church stands today on the neck of land on which it was originally built.
Betty \(Connelly\) Coleman was deceased by 3 Jul 1790, for on that date Thomas married his second wife, Ann Asbury Stowers, in Northumberland County. Ann, the widow of Samuel Stowers, was a daughter of Thomas Asbury and Ann Read (whose sister, Rebecca Read, was the first wife of Henry Duncan\). With Ann, Thomas had Thaddeus Coleman born 21 May 1791 and Charity Ann Coleman born 21 Feb 1793.
With the births of those two children, two separate branches of Colemans were joined. Ann Asbury was descended from the Westmoreland branch, while Thomas Coleman was a descendant of the Mobjack Bay branch. But by January 1812, Thomas and his second family were all deceased, thus ending the short-lived line of Mobjack Bay and Westmoreland County descendants.
Thomas Coleman wrote an interesting will on 29 Mar 1810. His wife Ann was deceased and his daughter Charity Ann was not mentioned. She had apparently predeceased her father. If she had lived, she would have been one month shy of being 17 years old when her father wrote his will. Thomas left the majority of his estate to his son Thaddeus Coleman. The American Revolution was over, and the law of primogeniture was no longer in effect. A man could leave his chattel and lands to whomever he wished.
Thomas directed that if Thaddeus did not marry, or died before reaching the age of 21, then Thomasí estate was to be divided among the children of his first marriage: Lucy Fulks, Sarah Walker, Mary Stott, Thomas Coleman, Robert Coleman and James Coleman. Specifically left out of this estate division was son Richard Coleman and daughter Betsy Routt. They each received "one dollar and no more" from their father, indicating that Richard and Betsy had already received their inheritance.
Thaddeus Coleman, 19 years old when his father died, did not live long enough to inherit his fatherís estate. The cause of his death is unknown, but Thomas Colemanís estate was divided among the children of his first marriage, as stipulated in his will. After Thomasí death, his daughter Mary and her husband, Oliver Stott of Richmond County, purchased from her siblings, the land on which their father, Thomas Coleman, had lived. The deed was dated Jan 1812, nineteen months after Thomas died, and was recorded on 3 Feb 1812 in Richmond Co. VA \(DB19, pp. 161-163):
"Thomas and Sarah Walker of Northumberland Co. VA, Thomas Coleman Jr. of Tennessee, Robert Coleman of Kentucky, James Coleman of Kentucky, and the heirs of Lucy Fulks, deceased, to wit: Nancy Fulks, John Fulks, Charles Fulks and William Fulks by Charles Fulks his guardian, of Northumberland County, VA to Oliver Stott of Richmond County, VA, whose wife Mary Stott is one of the legatees of Col. Thomas Coleman Sr., deceased. Consideration is $523.40 current Virginia money. Being the said land whereon the said Col. Thomas Coleman Sr., deceased, last resided and being in Farnham Parish, Richmond County, VA. Containing 182 acres, more or less, and bounded by the lands of William Elmore, George Connally (sic) and William Forrester. Wit: John Bryant, William Bryant, Joseph Alexander, John Alexander, Richard Routt and Luke Hanks."
Just six years after Charity Mitchellís husband John died in 1759, another John Mitchell died intestate in Lancaster County. An appraisement of this John Mitchellís estate was recorded on 15 Jul 1765 \(Lancaster Co. WB18, p. 39). A division of his estate was recorded on 18 Jun 1767 and named his wife Betty and children William Mitchell, John Mitchell, Ruth Mitchell, Eliza Mitchell, Grizzel Mitchell and Hannah Mitchell. Any relationship between Charityís husband John and the John Mitchell who died in 1765 is unknown. The use of the name Grizzel is interesting because the name was rarely used in lines other than the Mobjack Bay Colemans.
The will of Robert Mitchell (wife Susan\) was recorded 9 Sep 1748 in Lancaster County, VA although, again, any relationship between this Robert and Charityís second husband John Mitchell is unknown. However, named in Robert Mitchellís will \(Lancaster Co. VA Wills 1653-1800) was Robert Mitchell, Dr. John Mitchell, Richard Mitchell, Elizabeth wife of Moore Fauntleroy, Judith Mitchell (m. George Glascock\), Sarah wife of Thomas Chinn, and Frances Mitchell (m. John Sydnor\) .
The division of Susan Mitchellís estate (wife of Robert above) was recorded on 19 Feb 1762 \(Lancaster Co. VA Wills, Bk. 16, p. 184). Named in the division were John Pope and Elizabeth Davenportís parts, Thomas Chinn, Robert Mitchellís children, Moore Fauntleroy, Richard Mitchell, John Sydnor, George Glascock, James Ball, M. Shearman and Thomas Stott.
These three Mitchell wills illustrate the familiarity of names and relationships among the Northern Neck families.
The Northumberland County Coleman line also had close ties with the Routt and Sydnor families. In the will of Anthony Routt of St. Stephenís Parish, Northumberland County, written on 3 Jan 1793 and proved in court 11 Sep 1797, the three witnesses were Thomas Coleman, Ann Coleman and Sarah Coleman. These witnesses have been identified as Thomas Coleman (1738-1810), his second wife Ann Asbury Stowers Coleman, and his daughter Sarah (Northumberland Co. VA Wills 1793-1816 and Administrations 1790-1816, p. 411, by James F. Lewis and J. Motley Booker, M.D.\)
Anthony Routt was a son of John Routt who married Winifred Sydnor in 1713. Winifred was a daughter of Anthony Sydnor and Elizabeth Dew (The Dameron-Damson Genealogy, Pt. 1, p. 176, by Helen Foster Snow, 1954). Interestingly, Richard Coleman, son of Thomas and his first wife Betty, married Lucy Sydnor in 1779. She was a daughter of William Sydnor and Mary Ellen Fauntleroy. Richardís sister Betsy married into the Routt family.
Thomas Coleman was about five years old when his father Richard died. Thomasí mother Charity continued to live in Lancaster County./a> as a widow, and throughout her marriage to John Mitchell. Thomas and his sister Hannah were undoubtedly raised in Lancaster County.
In 1763, widow Charity Mitchell left Lancaster County and settled on the 189-acre parcel of land she purchased in Richmond County from Patience and John Jenkins. This was the plot of land later given by Charity and her third husband, Henry Duncan, to her son James Mitchell.
At the time Charity moved to Ric..ond County, her son Thomas and his family were residing in Lancaster. Five years later, on 31 Mar 1768, Thomas purchased 350 acres of Richmond County land. "William Glascock and wife Easter, of Richmond County, to Thomas Coleman of Lancaster County, 350 acres for L150, parcel of landÖ..on the Branch of Totuskey Creek in Richmond County purchased by the said William Glascock of Thomas Legg and Sarah his wife by two Indentures of FeoffmentÖ..Wit: T. Glascock, Richard Glascock, George Glascock, Charles Barnes, John Glascock." (Richmond Co. VA DB13, pp. 12-15)
As residents of Richmond County, Thomas and Betty then sold half of their newly purchased land to George Connally (sic) of Lancaster County on 31 Aug 1768. The deed states 350 acres on the branches of Totuskey, but only a moiety (half-part) was surveyed, and the purchase price was L75, half of what Thomas paid for the original parcel of land in March of that year (Richmond Co. VA DB13, pp. 42-44).
On 31 Aug 1771, Thomas and Betty purchased four acres of Richmond County..land from William and Mary Elmore for L4: "Land in North Farnham Parish, Richmond County, VAÖ..being part of the land whereon the said William Elmore now lives and adjoining the land of the said ColemanÖ..land of Richard Mitchell". Wit: James Connolly (sic), William Rout, Christopher Mayes, Rawleigh Hudson \(Richmond Co. VA DB13, pp. 341-343). Two years later, Thomas purchased an additional three acres from William and Mary Elmore for L3 in North Farnham Parish (Richmond Co. VA DB13, pp. 546-547).
The 175 acres Thomas retained from the sale to George Connelly in 1768, plus the additional seven acres he bought from William and Mary Elmore, totaled 182 acres, the amount of land his children divided after his death.
Family historians are familiar with the tendency of ancestors to migrate in groups made up of other family members and neighbors. Often, a member of the migrating family would write home extolling the benefits of the new settlements, praising the virgin soil and opportunities for a better life. This circumstance is apparently what occurred in the case of Thomas A. Watlington, a younger cousin of Thomas Coleman (1738-1810).
Thomas A. Watlington of Gloucester County was also a 2nd great-grandson of Mobjack Bay Robert Coleman. He was a son of Susannah Coleman and Armistead Watlington. In a history of Trigg County, KY, Thomas and his son Thomas A. Watlington Jr. were described as the first permanent settlers in what was then Cadiz precinct in Christian County, KY. They migrated to that area of Kentucky about 1792. James Coleman, son of Thomas and Betty \(Connelly\) Coleman, also migrated to Kentucky and settled in Cadiz precinct, but the year of his migration is unknown. James was described as being another early settler, and his oldest child, Robert Morris Coleman, was born in Kentucky in 1799.
Thomas A. Watlington Sr. apparently died in 1803, for in that year his son William inherited a parcel of land in Caledonia precinct in Christian County. In 1820, this land became part of Trigg County. James Colemanís land at Roaring Springs in Cadiz precinct also became part of Trigg County in that same year.
While little is known about the two children of Thomas Coleman and his second wife, widow Ann Asbury Stowers, a somewhat clearer picture has emerged regarding the eight children born to Thomas and his first wife, Betty Connelly.
Daughter Lucy Coleman, their firstborn child, was born on 1 Mar 1759 in Richmond Co. VA and married a Fulks on 4 Feb 1779 in that county. Lucy was still living at the time her father wrote his will in March 1810, but was deceased by Jan 1812 when the deed was written in which Mary and Oliver Stott purchased her fatherís Richmond County acres. \(Note: "Lucy" may have been the name of Betty Connellyís mother. It wasnít uncommon for wives to name their daughters in those days, because females were of little consequence. Fathers were more interested in their male heirs, and took a more active role in naming them.)
Richard Coleman was born on 22 April 1761 in Richmond Co. VA and married Lucy Sydnor in 1779. He and Lucy had at least three children, Elizabeth, Lucy and Richard. The year of Richard Sr.ís death is unknown, but he probably died between 1810-1820 because his name no longer appeared on any Virginia census after 1810. The only son of Thomas and Betty to remain in Virginia, Richard was most likely given his fatherís Lancaster County holdings. For that reason, he would not have shared equally with his brothers and sisters in the division of his fatherís 182 acres in Richmond County. \(Note: The name Richard Coleman, of an age appropriate to have been born in 1790, appears on the 1840 Lancaster County census, indicating he may have been a son of Richard and Lucy \(Sydnor\) Coleman.\)
Elizabeth (Betsy) Coleman was born on 26 Jan 1763 in Richmond Co. VA. She married Benjamin Routt, but no marriage date has been found for them. Betsy inherited "one dollar and no more" from her father, suggesting she had been taken care of financially before his death.
Thomas Coleman was born on 30 Jun 1770 in Richmond Co. VA. In 1789 he married Clarissa White of Burke Co. NC. Both Thomas and Clarissa died in Maury Co. TN, he in 1826, she in 1852. Although Thomas lived on his fatherís Northumberland County land by 1788 as overseer, he was not destined to inherit the land outright. This may have been the impetus that caused him to leave Virginia the following year and go to North Carolina where he met and married the young Clarissa White. Around 1808, Thomas moved his growing family to Maury Co. TN where they settled on a 5,000 acre tract of land granted to Clarissaís father, William White, for his Revolutionary War service. Thomas and Clarissa were the parents of twelve children.
Robert Coleman, the third son of Thomas and Betty Coleman, was born 15 Aug 1772 in Richmond Co. VA. Robert and his brother James migrated to Christian Co. KY before 1800. Robert settled in the eastern part of the county on land that became Todd County in 1820. Robert married Nelly Strother in Christian Co. KY on 17 Apr 1804. They had seven known children, only three of whom have been identified: Eliza, Madison and Emily. Perrinís History of Christian Co. KY describes Robert Coleman as a pioneer lawyer. Called "Old Bob Coleman" in later years by his friends, Robert was licensed to practice law in the Circuit Court at Hopkinsville. Known to be penurious, Robert always packed a dinner of corn-dodgers and bacon in his saddlebags on court days, to save the cost of buying a meal at the tavern. Robert was not considered a particularly good lawyer, but did possess a reputation for being a "land shark". The 1845 Todd Co. Tax List shows Robert Coleman with 350 acres valued at $3,000 in Todd County, 21 acres valued at $126 in Christian County, and 400 acres valued at $400 in Livingston County. On the same line with the 400 acres in Livingston County was also "one white male over 21", twelve slaves over 16, a total of 24 slaves with a value of $8300. Since Robert was a resident of Todd County, the white male over 21 was probably his son Madison who was born in 1806. Madison was a resident of Livingston Co. KY in 1841 when his son, Thomas Smith Coleman, was born. Under the listings of Robert Coleman on the tax list was "Robert Coleman agent for Louisa Coleman". No relationship between the two has been determined, but Louisa may have been a widowed daughter-in-law of Robert and Nelly. Louisa was listed with 300 acres in Christian County with a value of $3,000, four slaves over 16, and a total of 17 slaves with a value of $5575. Nelly Strother Coleman was born about 1782, a daughter of Robert Strother and Elizabeth Dillard. Her fatherís will was dated 14 Oct 1800 and probated in Bowling Green, KY in March 1801. Her mother remarried and signed the consent for Nellyís marriage to Robert Coleman as Elizabeth Strother North. Nelly died in Todd Co. KY on 25 Mar 1837 and was buried in the Jameson Cemetery in that county. Robert Coleman died on 8 Feb 1846 in Todd Co. KY and was buried on the Coleman homestead. From Todd Co. KY Will Book F, Jan 1844-April 1848, Robert Colemanís will is on page 269, inventory and appraisal on p. 285, division of slaves on p. 374, and a Sale Bill on p. 425.
Sarah Coleman was born on 19 May 1775 in Richmond Co. VA. She married Thomas Walker, son of John and Mary Walker (unproven), on 27 Apr 1793 in Richmond County. Sarah and Thomas both died in Maury Co. TN, she in 1841 or 1842, Thomas before 2 Dec 1841. They had ten known children.
James Coleman./a> was born on 4 Jan 1778 in Richmond Co. VA. He died in July 1840 in Trigg Co. KY. From the Journal of John Mabry Sr. of Trigg Co. KY: "July 17, 1840 Ė James Coleman died about this time". The Kentucky Will Index Vol. II 1820-1840, Bk B, p. 302 lists a probate date of 10 Aug 1840 for James Coleman. James lived in a settlement called Roaring Springs, part of Cadiz precinct, north of the Cumberland River in Christian Co. KY. In 1820, the year Trigg County was formed from Christian, the population in the county was 3,870. By 1840, the year James died, the countyís population was 7,216. The Roaring Springs area began to be settled in the late 1700ís and early 1800ís by natives of Virginia and North Carolina. In the village were five mercantile stores, a hotel, livery barn and a saloon. James married his first wife, Rebecca Morris, about 1797. In 1800, her father Robert Morris was living in Scott Co. KY. James and Rebecca had seven known children: Robert Morris, Elizabeth, Thomas, James, Albert, an unidentified son and an unidentified daughter. James Coleman was a lawyer and at the August 1820 county court, was paid $3.00 for attending three days as Judge "at the last election". At the same court, the town of Cadiz was laid out, containing 52 acres including the town square. The main and cross streets were each 60 feet wide, with four lots to each block, the lots each being ľ acre square. At the August 1820 term, a levy of 75 cents per tithe was charged. 840 tithables paid the 75 cent tax for a total of $630.00 to meet the expenses of the county that year. In 1828, James ran for the Legislature from Cadiz, but was defeated by Abraham Boyd of Caledonia by 35 votes. James was on the 1810 Christian County census and in 1820, 1830 and 1840 his name was found on the Trigg County census. About 1830, James married his second wife, Nancy Wooten and they had two surviving children: Mary Frances Coleman who married David C. Wooten, and Elbridge A. Coleman who married Mary Jane Carter.
Mary (Molly) Coleman was born on 23 Apr 1780 in Richmond Co. VA, the youngest surviving child of Thomas and Betty Coleman. On 28 Jan 1797, she married Oliver Stott in Richmond County. It is unknown if they had any children. Mary inherited a share of her fatherís 182 acres in Richmond County. After Thomasí estate was settled, Mary and Oliver bought the shares belonging to her brothers and sisters.
The lack of Virginia records, in almost every county pertinent to Coleman research, has caused a great deal of confusion and frustration, particularly among the descendants of Thomas Coleman and Elizabeth Connelly. By using all available records, geographical analyses, and a process of elimination based on extensive analyses of Colemans in the Northern Neck, it is reasonable to assume that Thomas Coleman (1738-1810) was indeed a descendant of Robert Coleman of Mobjack By, VA. In the words of Judge Solon B. Coleman, this supposition is accepted as part of the record until evidence proves otherwise.
Family historians must decide for themselves if Thomas Coleman was descended from the Mobjack Bay branch. It is hoped that the clues presented in this article will lessen some of the confusion regarding the origins of Thomas.
Additional sources for this article:
Connie Ausec of Houston, TX
James H. Brown of Hurst, TX
John Sisler of Houston, TX
Toni Crippen of Round Rock, TX